27 January 2023 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It stands as a hugely important reminder to us all. The inhumanity, the violence, that we all hope can be left in the past, continues to be seen in conflicts around the world. It is particularly poignant as we move within one month of the anniversary of Russia’s terrible invasion of Ukraine (24 February). I’m not saying that conflict is comparable to the singularly hateful events of the Holocaust, merely that we still see the very worst of what humans are capable of in our world today. I have called before in this message for tolerance, for us to look for what unites, rather than divides us, and I repeat that call again today, on Holocaust Memorial Day, as we sincerely hope for a brighter future for all of humanity.

Yesterday I watched the very moving and poignant addresses from George Vulkan BEM and Rabbi Yehuda Pink as part of the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative event in the council chamber. Their addresses, along with those of the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ken Meeson, and Chief Superintendent Andy Beard, were complimented beautifully by music from Solihull School students, who performed a touching rendition of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. This, and the original poetry written and recited for the occasion by students from Langley School were wonderful reflections from our young people on such a hugely meaningful subject.

This week I was very pleased to hear about Solihull residents Ann and Malcolm Turner, who celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary by planting a cherry tree on a village green in Shirley. They decided to support the Council’s plans to plant 250,000 trees in ten years by buying a Celebration Tree from the Planting Our Future team and creating a lasting focal point in their area.

Meeting our carbon net zero target and helping to combat climate change is central to the Council’s work, but we need the support of residents, businesses, schools and voluntary groups to achieve this.

Planting trees is a key part of this work. Not only do they capture carbon, but they help prevent flooding, reduce city heat, reduce pollution, and improve air quality. They also provide homes for wildlife and add beauty to our urban landscapes.

Our award-winning Planting Our Future team is on target to plant 250,000 trees in the borough and have worked with hundreds of residents, businesses, schools, colleges and voluntary groups to locate and plant new areas. I think their latest initiative to encourage people to ‘say it with trees’ is a great idea. You can read all about it here.

If you’re involved in an environmental project, or have an idea for one, on a larger scale, then why not apply for a WMCA community green grant?

To date, grants totalling £344,000 have been awarded to 13 projects across the region, including a recent award of around £100,000 to the Love Your River Stour project in the Black Country. The award of our largest grant to date is a significant milestone for the Community Green Grants. I would encourage anyone who is involved in a project that shares our commitment to improving the natural environment, no matter how big or small, to get in touch to find out how a grant could help make it a reality. You can find out more here.

Lastly, I’d like to thank all the people that attended the Family Hubs webinar last week, which gave attendees an update on how the project is progressing. I’m told there were lots of great questions asked and feedback given, which will help shape our offer to Solihull families. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded session here.

Solihull has been awarded £1m of transformational funding from central Government to create a Family Hub offer by March 2024. The hubs will join up support services for families with children from before they are born until they are 19 years old (and 25 years for young people with additional needs). To find out more, visit the Council website here.

Have a good weekend,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council